The California Department of Motor Vehicles has received a second application to test fully driverless vehicles on public roads, and the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the applicant is Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet. Waymo is already testing fully driverless cars with no human safety driver behind the wheel on public roads in Arizona, so it doesnt come as a huge shock that the company would be interested in performing similar tests on its home turf in California. A spokesperson for Waymo confirmed the application to the Chronicle. A DMV spokesperson acknowledged a second application has been received but declined to name either company until their approval. California began accepting applications for fully driverless testing permits on April 2nd after a rule change opened the door for companies wishing to test their autonomous vehicles on public roads. Among the many provisions, the new rules would allow autonomous cars without steering wheels, foot pedals, mirrors, and human drivers behind the wheel to be tested on its roads. California is an obvious hotbed for autonomous vehicle testing, so changes made to the states rules governing these tests are followed closely by companies like General Motors, Waymo, and Uber that are developing fleets of self-driving cars for public use. There are currently 50 companies testing nearly 300 autonomous vehicles that are licensed with the DMV, officials said. Waymo says it is the only company to have fully driverless vehicles on the road today. Last month, a fatal crash in Arizona involving a self-driving Uber vehicle sent shockwaves through the tech and auto industries, raising questions about the safety surrounding this technology and the permissiveness of states like Arizona to welcome the testing. Unlike Arizona, though, California has permitting and disclosure policies in place surrounding self-driving cars.
Remote operators linked to the cars will need to stand by in case of an emergency. Waymo has officially applied to the California DMV to test autonomous cars without drivers in the state. A source told the San Francisco Chronicle that the company will start trials around its Mountain View headquarters where it's been testing its self-driving Chrysler Pacific minivans, though those had personnel behind the wheel just in case. Eventually, they'll expand no-trial driving to more of the Bay Area, the source said. The California DMV had predicted they'd be ready for automakers to start testing driverless cars on public roads in April, and started accepting applications on the 2nd of the month. The new rules also allow testing vehicles without steering wheels, foot pedals and mirrors. Waymo is actually the second company to apply for driverless testing in California. The DMV confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle that two have submitted appropriate paperwork (the first applied earlier this month), but declined to identify either. In place of a backup driver, the DMV would require companies to link their test vehicles to remote operators, who could take over in the event of an emergency. Back in March, Arizona's governor opened up driverless car tests in the state, and notably won't require the same wired-in operators waiting to step in. It should be noted that in the fatal crash involving an autonomous Uber car just weeks later, a test driver had been behind the wheel.